(Bloomberg) -- President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will meet with Pope Francis, Italy’s prime minister and other top officials during a visit to Rome and the Vatican on Saturday, before traveling to Berlin. Germany is preparing a a military aid package for Ukraine worth some €2.7 billlion, the nation’s defense ministry announced.
Russia attacked Ukraine’s capital with drones early Saturday for the sixth time since the beginning of May, and targeted other cities with missile strikes.
China will send a special envoy to Kyiv on Monday, marking the first high-level visit from the Chinese government since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine almost 15 months ago. The US and South Africa sought to smooth over a diplomatic row after the American ambassador accused South Africa of supplying arms to Russia.
- South Africa, US Look to Ease Strain After Russia Weapons Dustup
- China to Send Special Envoy to Ukraine, Russia From Monday
- Ukraine Cites Gains on Russian Troops Near Embattled Bakhmut
(All times CET)
Germany Announces €2.7 Billion Military Aid Package for Ukraine (10 a.m.)
Germany is preparing another military support package for Ukraine worth more than €2.7 billion ($2.9 billion), the country’s defense ministry said, confirming an earlier report from Der Spiegel.
The record large package is intended to continue to support Kyiv in its defense against Russia and will include material from the areas of artillery, air defense, and armored combat vehicles including main battle tanks.
“We are once again showing that Germany is serious about its support,” said German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. “Germany will provide all the help it can - as long as it takes,” he added. Ukraine’s president will reportedly travel to Berlin on Saturday after visiting Rome, Der Tagespiegel reported.
Read more: Europe Crowns Zelenskiy As New Charlemagne: Andreas Kluth
Poland Says Probable Observation Balloon Flies in From Belarus (9:44 a.m.)
Poland’s defence ministry said a flying object, probably an observation balloon, entered the NATO member’s airspace from Belarus to the east. Troops are searching for the object after it disappeared from radar near the town of Rypin, some 150 km (93 miles) northwest of Warsaw, the ministry said.
Ukraine’s PM Kuleba Asks Allies to Focus on Weapons Shipments (9:30 a.m.)
Western countries should stop asking when Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia will start and instead focus on providing the equipment it needs to be successful, foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said before a meeting with European foreign ministers in Sweden.
“When you fight a war you need everything, from medical vehicles to transport injured soldiers to long-range missiles, armored personnel carriers and F-16s,” Kuleba told reporters at the meeting venue near Stockholm. “Instead of asking when the counteroffensive will begin, ask: have I done enough for the Ukrainian counteroffensive to begin and to be successful?”
Germany to Assemble Biggest Weapons Package Yet: Spiegel (9 a.m.)
The German government in the past few days has put together its biggest military assistance package yet for Ukraine, with about 2.7 billion ($2.9 billion) in weapons aid to be sent in the coming weeks and months, Der Spiegel reported, citing sources it didn’t identify.
Zelenskiy Likely to Meet Pope Francis, Italian PM Meloni (8:49 a.m.)
Ukraine’s president is expected to arrive in Rome Saturday morning, and will meet with top government officials as well as Pope Francis, according to Italian media. He’s likely to have a press conference with PM Giorgia Meloni.
Details of the visit haven’t been officially confirmed by Ukraine for security reasons. Meloni visited Zelenskiy in Kyiv in February.
Russia Launched Sixth Drone Attack on Kyiv This Month (8:30 a.m.)
Russia attacked Kyiv with drones early Saturday monring. Air alerts sounded in Ukraine’s capital for over two hours in the sixth air attack there since the beginning of May, Kyiv city military administration said in Telegram.
Some 21 Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 were directed at Kyiv from the north and south, with 17 downed, Ukrainian Air Defence reports.
Ukraine’s southern Mykolayiv and northern Khmelnitskiy regions faced strikes as well. Over 15 strikes from different kind of weapons were directed on southern city of Kherson and the near by areas over the past day. Two people killed and four injured.
Preparations for Counteroffensive Discussed (1:30 a.m.)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, spoke about preparations for the Ukrainian counteroffensive in a call on Friday, the State Department said.
They discussed “how contributions from international partners can support” the success of the counteroffensive, the department said in a statement.
South Africa, US Seek to Smooth Over Weapons Dispute (1:10 a.m.)
South Africa and the US sought to make amends after the American ambassador was summoned in protest over his accusation that the country had provided weapons to Russia.
The government in Pretoria said the ambassador, Reuben Brigety, “admitted that he crossed the line and apologized unreservedly.” That followed South African officials expressing “utter displeasure with his conduct.”
Neither the US nor South Africa addressed the veracity of his claim that South Africa had sent arms Russia for the war in Ukraine. Brigety said in a tweet late Friday that he was grateful for the chance to “correct any misimpressions left by my public remarks.”
Putin Seeks to Stop People From Leaving Russia (6:10 p.m.)
Russia’s president wants additional measures to stop people from leaving the country, according to a document published by Kremlin. Hundreds of thousands fled after Putin invaded Ukraine in 2022 and later announced a mobilization when his army suffered a series of setbacks.
According to Putin’s order, “emigration from Russia has increased because of changed social economic conditions and it is necessary to adopt additional financial, social and other mechanisms to keep human capital and reduce Russian population outflow abroad.”
Putin, Ramaphosa Speak After South African Arms Sale News (5:04 p.m.)
Russia’s president spoke with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday, the Kremlin said, adding that Vladimir Putin supports the idea of involving a group of African leaders in discussing the prospects for resolving the war in Ukraine.
The Kremlin readout made no mention of reports Thursday of a US claim that South Africa had supplied weapons and ammunition to Russia despite Pretoria’s neutral stance on Ukraine. The claim helped push the rand to a record low against the US dollar on fears of damage to trade ties with the US.
Separately, South Africa’s government summoned US Ambassador Reuben Brigety after he accused Pretoria of supplying weapons to Russia, while its foreign minister intends to raise the matter with her US counterpart, Antony Blinken.
Ukraine Cites Gains Near Embattled Bakhmut (2:27 p.m.)
Ukrainian forces pushed Russian troops back to regain some territory in the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, officials in Kyiv said, as Russia acknowledged a flurry of attacks along the front line.
Kremlin troops around Bakhmut, which has been besieged in brutal running battles for almost a year, pulled back as much as 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) in some areas over the last 24 hours, Ukrainian military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi told Rada TV on Friday. It wasn’t clear if the stepped-up action around Bakhmut was part of Ukraine’s counter-offensive.
Russia’s defense ministry said its troops had withdrawn close to a reservoir north of Bakhmut to set up a new defensive line with more “favorable conditions.”
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